What I’m Lovin’ Right Now | The V-Day Edition

As I think about it, there are several stages to the Valentine’s Day experience I believe many women go through. As a kid, you were forced encouraged to swap Valentine’s with your classmates, literally walking home with tons of cards and heart-shaped candy (along with the biggest sugar rush ever to your parent’s delight). In middle school, you sent candy grams to all your girlfriends, and they to you, as a mark of solidarity. In high school, somehow that all changed and you watched with disdain that only the popular girls somehow now got all the candy grams delivered right in the middle of English class. In college, you were just plain bummed to be single and/or annoyed by all the hoop-la so you holed up in your dorm room watching movies until this ridiculous excuse for a holiday was over. In your early twenties, Valentine’s Day became “Single’s Appreciation Day,” and you were as Destiny’s Child once said, an “Independent Woman” so you’d grab your single girlfriends and make your own rules (I don’t need no man!). And then one day, whatever day or age it may be, you meet your Valentine.

From there, it may revert back to the early twenties stage where you find yourself celebrating Single’s Appreciation Day again after a break-up; or perhaps after years in a relationship, it just becomes another day.

I think I’ve gone through almost (almost) every iteration of the typical women’s Valentine’s Day experience. This year, I happen to be on the team that has a Valentine and he’s always good about making it special.

While I’m aware, and in complete agreement with those that think, that love (and flowers, and chocolate, and kind words) should come more than once a year on a consumerist driven holiday, I couldn’t help but dedicate a little space to that thing we call love and all the hoop-la surrounding it.

Here’s what I’m lovin’ right now…the Valentine’s Day edition…

V-Day WILRN

  1. SAY | 30 Ways to Say “I Love You” | Huffington Post.
  2. BAKE | Skinny Pink Champagne Cupcakes  | The Skinny Fork.
  3. UNWIND | Jo Malone “Red Roses” Bath Oil | Nordstrom.
  4. WEAR | Pink Knot Front Dress | Victoria’s Secret.
  5. PAINT | Festive Valentine’s Day Mani.
  6. COOK | 15 Creative Dinner Ideas for Celebrating Valentine’s Day | All Yummy Recipes.
  7. CREATE | Personalized M&M’s | My M&M’s
  8. CRAFT | D.I.Y. Frosted Vase |  A Beautiful Mess.
  9. BRIGHTEN | Pure Color Cheek Rush in X-Pose Rose | Estee Lauder.
  10. SMEAR | The Kiss Lip Balm | Lush.
  11. BUY |  Handmade Valentine’s Day Cards | Sew Colorful Designs.
  12. WATCH | The Top Romantic Movies for Valentine’s Day | Better Homes and Gardens.

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Highlights

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{Slowly starting to feel like my old self again. Who-hoo!}

Between the common cold and  general life stresses, the last few weeks have been rough. The great news is that things are falling somewhat back into place and I’m starting to feel like my old self again. I’m happy to report that I even went to my first yoga class after a month off, and while it wasn’t at my fancy schmansy yoga studio, it was a lovely class better suited to my price range and it was so nice to get back on the mat.

Otherwise, this week has been all about re-balancing things and trying to enjoy life’s little pleasures. I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying the taste of food again since my sinuses finally cleared up. And the fact that I can actually breathe in and out without much effort is quite divine. It’s when you get sick that you once you recover you really start to appreciate even the simplest of things as this.

I don’t have much going on this weekend as of typing this, but I do have a lot of life and errand catching up to do since I was bed-ridden all last weekend. I’m looking forward to starting a new novel (though I’m not sure what yet) after finishing And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. While I found the book to one of the most eloquently written I think I’ve ever read, with engaging stories and characters, the book turned out to be rather anti-climatic for some reason to me in the end. I was waiting for the life-altering bomb to drop that would throw the narrative into a surprising new direction. I realize that because each chapter focuses on the perspective of one person among a group of interconnected characters over many generations, that it may be hard to do this – but I felt rather unsatisfied as I finished the last page. Perhaps it’s time to shake things up with a good mystery/thriller!

So as we close out another week, I’m grateful I made it through my first cold in years and ready to enjoy the rest of the summer. Cheers to a great weekend!

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{How to survive the common cold: lots of Kleenex and a day with the girls.}

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{On dessert duty for girl’s night at Buttercelli.}

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{Enjoying a moment in the grass.}

Sprinkles Ice Cream

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Where: Sprinkles Ice Cream

Location: 9631 South Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills

It’s the battle of the ice cream gods and I, for one, love some healthy competition! Not too long ago, I made the small trek over to the 90210 to check out the Ice Cream Lab, the newest addition to the South Santa Monica Boulevard family. This futuristic inspired ice cream parlor had the balls courage to open its doors down the street from the famed Sprinkles Cupcakes empire, that also opened a counterpart ice cream shop next door last spring. What better excuse to add a little ice cream to my beloved Sprinkles cupcake this time around to compare and contrast who does it best when it comes to a proper brain freeze? (The things I do in the name of blogging!)

Hands down, Sprinkles Ice Cream blows the Ice Cream Lab out of the water!

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While the Ice Cream Lab relies on the unique power to instantly create your frozen treat using liquid nitrogen machines right in front of you;  ultimately, it’s the limitations in their menu that weaken their panache for me. Sprinkles does what I think always works best: keep it simple, and keep it customizable. Not only do you have a large selection of ice cream flavors to choose from, your frosty delicacy is served in a myriad of ways: in a red velvet waffle cone, as a sundae, between cupcake tops or cookies for a sandwich, or just keep it basic and in a cup with toppings galore. Bonus points in my book for the option to also create a milkshake, malt, or even a float if the mood strikes you. The fun with Sprinkles Ice Cream is that the options are endless.

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On this particular Saturday afternoon visit, I stopped into the two-tone red and white parlor and indulged in a Sprinkles sundae (first pictured above for your viewing pleasure). It’s a scoop of ice cream with one cupcake of your choice. I had to go with their famous red velvet cupcake and the vanilla bean ice cream. The taste and texture of the slow churned ice cream with the moist fluffy cake covered with thick frosting was pure heaven (and yes, I was on a sugar high for the next three hours).

Admittedly, it’s a pricey treat, but one that I am a-okay to give in to occasionally.  It’s no secret that I am a fan of Sprinkles cupcakes and when paired together with their fresh gourmet ice cream…there are no words. Summer is in 3 days gang – and I plan to spend a few of them with a quick stop here after hitting the gym twice a day, of course! (yeah right). Hope to see you there! xx

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Cupcakes and L.A. Hipsters

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Location: 3337 West Sunset Boulevard, Silver Lake

I love when cupcakes just appear out of nowhere, when you least expect it, and didn’t even know you wanted needed it. My rendezvous in Silver Lake to try out the grilled cheese place getting a lot of buzz continued when I noticed between bites of my sandwich over lunch the number of people walking in and out of the shop next door. Most importantly, they were exiting with cupcakes boxes in hand. Talk about the universe always working on your behalf!

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Simply put, I LOVE cupcakes (you can read my thoughts on some of my favorite L.A. places herehere, and here) and this couldn’t be a coincidence that Lark Silver Lake Cake Shop happened to be a mere 15 steps away. After devouring the best grilled cheese sandwich I think I’ve ever had, we headed over for an impromptu dessert fix.

Lark Silver Lake Cake Shop has all the fixings for a great experience. They display a large selection of cupcakes, cakes, cookies and goodies (even gluten free and vegan options) inside an inviting and charming establishment. In fact, it was so welcoming (and to be quite honest we were just dying to eat dessert by that point) that we sat in the well-dressed interior space and devoured our frosted covered carbs right there.

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The Berry Shortcake Cupcake hit my tongue 30 seconds later and my mouth did the happy dance. Let’s just say it was a sexy experience: white cake filled with “Crème Patisserie” topped with a whip creme frosting and a strawberry.

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{Berry Shortcake Cupcake – before.}

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{After.}

The City of Silver Lake and its small business owners are going to love me because not only am I fully endorsing that you get over to Heywood for the best grilled cheese in town, you have to complete that experience with a trip next door to Lark for dessert.

Here’s to killing two birds with one stone!

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Highlights

Happy February! Looking forward to pigging out making smart eating choices and screaming at the TV on Superbowl Sunday. GO NINERS!! Of course, I’ll already have done the “healthy” thing before then by taking in a yoga class to restore my chi and burn a few calories first.

Here are some happy moments since last week – I’m noticing a lot of them involved food. Have a nice weekend!

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{Indulging my sweet tooth.}

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{Indulging my sweet tooth…again. Say hello to a Caramel Praline Crunch cupcake.}

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{This awesome mural spotted on the way to eat cheese. Read more here.}

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{My new red shoes.}

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{A strawberry Italian soda brightened a rather mundane afternoon.}

Grilled Cheese and L.A. Hipsters

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Location: 3337 West Sunset Boulevard, Silver Lake

The one part of town that I can’t say I spend much time in is with my east side L.A. hipsters (shout out to my friends in Silver Lake and Loz Feliz!). Admittedly, if I’m writing a blog about life in L.A., they should get more of a representation, especially since this side of town is really on the up-and-up and driving a lot of the trends. Luckily, my boyfriend heard through the grapevine about Heywood: A Grilled Cheese Shoppe and we happily crossed through Hollywood-land into Silver Lake territory. What better reason to leave our neck of the woods than to sit outside on a sunny afternoon and indulge in the comfort of a good grilled cheese sandwich? I couldn’t think of one. And the following snapshot of my meal confirmed I made the right decision:

(Feel free to click the picture to see the awesomeness up close and personal). 🙂

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{Caprese:  mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, roma tomatoes and a light walnut pesto spread on sourdough bread. Hello! Yummy!}

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What Pinkberry did for frozen yogurt, Umami did for burgers, and Sprinkles did for cupcakes, Heywood is doing for the universally loved grilled cheese sandwich. You can custom make your own cheesy number or order from the fixed menu. Since grilled cheese and tomato soup are like peanut better and jelly (well – close enough), I thought the spiced tomato soup dipper (delish!) and the spring mix salad rounded out the components for an amazing meal. I have nothing but great things to say about this place (other than the water is clearly not filtered, so prepare for that awesome tap water taste – yuck!).

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{Interior.}

Finally, good news for my wheat intolerant and vegan friends, Heywood thought of you too with gluten free bread and vegan cheese and butter options. Even better news for late night partiers, those leaving that poetry reading with nowhere to go, the girl who didn’t want to eat on her first date in front of the man of her dreams, or those who just need some comfort food, Heywood is open until 3am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I’ll see you there!

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Georgetown Cupcake Comes To L.A.

Location: 143 South Robertson Boulevard, Mid-City West

The opening of a new cupcake shop is almost (read: almost) as exciting as opening a Christmas present. What will the store look like? What flavors do they have? How well dressed (read: decorative) will the tiny cakes be? More importantly, how awesome will the experience be when you take that first bite?  Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed.

Georgetown Cupcake couldn’t have picked a better location to open its doors a little over a week ago. The shop sits on the very trendy, very busy, and VERY expensive Robertson Boulevard shopping district (read: rich people’s playground), Beverly Hills adjacent.

All my questions were finally answered a few days ago after a long anticipated wait, when we stopped in for an afternoon treat and unwrapped Georgetown’s sweet present. The store was very simplistic and welcoming in design; lots of white walls, with minimal artwork (all pictures of cupcakes, of course), hardwood floors with only a few tables in-store to sit and enjoy your frosted covered carb.

My favorite thing about Georgetown was the display of cupcakes sitting right in front of you, fully stocked, and perfectly organized in a way that made you want each and every one of them. One of my pet peeves with Sprinkles and other major cupcakeries in town is when you walk into the store and the bakery display is nearly empty, instantaneously making you feel like the flavors you want are already out of stock for the day (many times they are, other times they haven’t replaced stock yet). Not at Georgetown, they didn’t even grab our order from the counter display as they had tons of cupcakes sitting on racks behind the counter. Cupcakes everywhere! This made me happy. 🙂

{Cupcakes everywhere!}

Since I was between pumpkin pie feedings left over from Thanksgiving, with more than half a pie to still get through, I splurged on just one cupcake this time around – the lemon blossom. This cupcake was amazing; moist, flavorful, and my favorite part, lemony.

{Lemon Blossom.}

{First bite.}

I will add for my wheat intolerant friends, that my boyfriend didn’t seemed as impressed with his gluten-free lava fudge cupcake. He had issue with the frosting, and while saying that he would come again, he left Georgetown still a loyal fan of Cupcakes Couture in not so close-by Manhattan Beach for his wheat-free fix. I, on the other hand, literally had an internal dialogue in my head talking myself out of buying another.

When I’m done digesting all of the food I ate over the long holiday weekend, and detox all of the pumpkin pie still sitting in my body right now (too much info?), I’ll be back.

Welcome to L.A. Georgetown! I’m sure you’ll like the weather.

Cupcakes Couture

{Old store front and new.}

New Location: 1120 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach

When heading over to my favorite cup-cakery to grab treats for an upcoming birthday a few days ago; I was excited, then bummed, then excited again, then nostalgic. Explanation?

Excitement: sneaking to Manhattan Beach to grab surprise gluten-free birthday treats for my boyfriend. Bummed: a “we’ve moved” sign greets me. Excitement: reading the rest of the sign, “…down the street.” Nostalgia: missing the charm of the old shop I’ve come to love.

Cupcakes Couture, the bake shop that I rave about to all of you, has moved. Luckily, it’s only down the street and into the Manhattan Beach Creamery. I’m sure such a move will be great for business because it’s in a prime location to attract tourists strolling the beautiful sidewalks of Manhattan Beach Boulevard.

{Cupcakes Couture’s gorgeous new view from the store front.}

{Likes: these super cool chairs and this eclectic chandelier.}

For an old fan like me, there was something so charming about that little shop that I’ll miss. As you would enter the store, directly to your right was a large glass window, where you could see the pastry chefs working magically to create the most gorgeous cakes. To your left, a large glass display filled with a variety of the best dressed cupcakes in town would welcome you. There was such a fun, flirty design to the store that made it a great place to visit.

I can certainly understand why the owner, who recently blogged about her change of venue, was excited about the upgrade in light of her growing family (and let’s be honest, a scoop of ice cream while enjoying a cupcake is never a bad idea), but moving into The Creamery lost a touch of that charm I loved about the original location.

I later learned that the move was on November 1st. Perhaps since I visited the new set-up only 9 days later attributes to some of my unhappiness with the new location. The counter didn’t feel put together, boxes were strangely arranged in random places, the sign hadn’t even been put up over the booth, and the decor felt cluttered. I’m sure once the team settles in, that fun and flirty nature will return to Cupcakes Couture’s new spot in The Creamery. Hopefully, this was just a visual glitch. Otherwise, the rest of The Creamery, housing a gourmet ice cream station, specialty desserts section, and candy racks everywhere has a unique vibe that works – those awesome chairs and that chandelier were my favorites.

{Cupcakes Couture’s new station.}

{The Creamery store view.}

The most important fact of all, and what will keep me coming back for more, are that the cupcakes are still some of the best I’ve ever had; great tasting, moist, with a flair in design. The executive pastry chef duo that creates and bakes is the same, so what is ultimately special about the best cupcakes in Los Angeles remains untouched. This makes me happy.

{The best dressed cupcakes in L.A.}

I’ll keep you posted on how things finally turn out once we give Cupcakes Couture some time to settle into The Creamery. I know I’d be disappointed if someone reviewed my apartment after just moving in! Stay tuned…

{Sunday Mimosa cupcake.}

Buttercelli Bakeshop, Sherman Oaks

Location: 13722 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks

The search for the best cupcakes around town continues. Buttercelli sits in a sweet little spot on the very busy Ventura Boulevard in “The Oaks” (yep, I came up with that myself!). My second time here puts this place in the “so-so” category. Let me explain…

It was a H.O.T. Sunday afternoon earlier this summer. After spending the morning at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, we made a quick and spontaneous decision to head over to Buttercelli to check out their selection. They have one of the largest gluten free baked goods sections that I’ve come across to date (for the boyfriend) and somehow I always feel better about eating sweet treats when they’re promoted to be of the finest organic ingredients. I went with a simple lemon cupcake and because it was over 100 degrees outside, I didn’t want the frosting to melt while sitting on my kitchen counter and put it in the fridge. A complete no-no, of course, but it was too H.O.T. not to. When I ate the tiny treat later that night, the cake portion was hard. Boo!

Take 2.

Since it was the “weather’s fault” that I didn’t get to experience all the hype from my first time at Buttercelli, I made it a point with the recent cooling temperatures not to make the same intentional mistake twice! I left with an apple pie cupcake and a lemon poppy-seed muffin.

{My treats.}

The apple pie cupcake was delicious, but unfortunately the cake portion was hard on the edges and not as moist as some other places I’ve been in general. I swear, no fridge was involved this time. The next morning, the lemon poppy-seed muffin went well with my coffee for breakfast. This treat was both moist and delicious.

As such, I can’t quite figure out what’s going on with their cupcakes. Their Yelp reviews are positive overall, the other customers I’ve met in-store rave about the place, and the staff have always been very friendly and confident in their goodies. Perhaps the point is to eat the treat right away. The store must have some magical tool in the air to keep their goods fresh and the minute you walk out the door their stock plummets.

Either way, it shouldn’t be this much work on my end to enjoy a cupcake (in decent weather no less). Kudos to them for the gluten free selection and the use of organic ingredients.

Bottom line? I’m not too convinced of this place’s awesomeness. The muffin was good and a bite of my guy’s chocolate thumbprint was yummy, but why is it that the cupcakes can’t seem to float my boat?  I rate Buttercelli “so-so.”

Cupcakes (no Cashmere)

In celebration of tiny cakes everywhere and one of my favorite blogs, after having spent lots of time researching my passion for carbs topped with icing and taste testing my behind off; here are my thoughts based on my quest to uncover some of LA’s best cupcakes. Clearly, I haven’t tried every single cupcake in this great land, so I’m basing this list off of the places I’ve personally frequented.

Cupcakes Couture
Location: 916 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach
BY FAR the most delicious and best dressed cupcakes in LA!  I stumbled into
this oasis of sweetness when hanging out on the Manhattan Beach Strand one Saturday afternoon nearly a year ago. It’s a trek to get down to the South bay for me, but MY GOODNESS, it’s worth every traffic light and hassle to get there. The shop is well designed, the girls that work the counter are sweet, and the concoctions are the best. Nearly every cupcake has a sweet filling in the center, always tastes fresh, and NEVER disappoints. This place also has THE BEST gluten-free selection (which makes my boyfriend very happy) that I’ve come across if you struggle with an intolerance to wheat. My favorites are the Cupcake Wars reality TV show winning Lemon Blueberry, Strawberry Cheesecake, and the Sunday Mimosa (only served on Sundays, get it!?!) 
Sprinkles
Location: 9635 Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills

THE place that started it all, well, at least in my opinion. This is what I think of as the originator of the cupcake craze in Los Angeles – like how Pinkberry spawned the frozen yogurt movement. I can’t recall how I first heard of this place, but it remains an oldie but a goodie in my book. Sprinkles’ forte has always been location, location, location; oh and the cupcakes are moist and delicious! They have one the largest selections of flavors but rotate them out depending on the day, as seems to be the case with all places. Beware the place is small and the line LONG. Their best invention yet? The cupcake ATM if you want to grab a cupcake at 2:00am. Great ones to try: Lemon Coconut, Red Velvet, Strawberry, and Pumpkin.

Frosted Cupcakery
Location: 1200 North Highland Avenue, Hollywood

If I can’t make the trip to Manhattan Beach or Beverly Hills, Frosted comes in a close third. The cupcakes more than cover it in a pinch, but I so desperately wish that Frosted would catch up on the flavor selections! They stick with pretty safe choices. Their shop seems to run of cupcakes quicker in my experience than with other places, and the treats themselves are very good, but I find they don’t have quite the same punch. The best thing about this place? The price! These guys run under $3.00 each, which is a steal! What scores additional brownie points? Their awesome ice cream cupcakes. I’m a huge fan of their red velvet and cream cheese cupcake filled with vanilla bean ice cream!

Vanilla Bake Shop
Location: 10250 Santa Monica Boulevard, Century City

My latest taste test on the cupcake front comes from Vanilla Bake Shop. I’ve noticed the shop for a while now when checking out a movie or shopping at the Westfield center; and have been in before a few times to check out the place, but had never purchased anything (which is so unlike me.) I have to say this place is aptly named, it was a very “vanilla” experience. I hate to call this out, but the person working the counter was pretty dismissive (coloring in fact) when I walked-in recently. Further to that, they only have 6 flavors to choose from on any given day. I went with a safe Vanilla Bean and did enjoy the cupcake. It satisfied my sweet tooth but they lose points for not much variety on any given day and poor service. Perhaps it was an off day. I was also told that a gluten-free selection was in the works and would debut in May of this year, but nothing yet.

Crumbs
Location: 6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood

Love the name, pretty blah when it comes to the cupcakes. I do like how decorative these guys are, but for some reason, I get a “straight out of a box” taste from them. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you just want sugar, and you don’t really care how or in what format, so these will more than handle your needs, but the fresh taste wasn’t quite there for me. Dare I say they were a bit too sweet as well?  I love that they have multiple locations around the city. I count 6! Then again, because they have so many locations, maybe this alludes to why quality lacks in their cupcakes. It seems they’re more into design, which is super important, but I’m also about my tongue doing the happy dance on contact.

With that, I’m now seriously craving a cupcake and I don’t care which location it comes from! If you have a hidden treasure on the tiny cake front that is missing from my list, please do let me know! I’m always looking to gain 5 pounds (said no one ever!)